If you’re involved in church media, you probably know what it’s like to spend time working on a great design for a PowerPoint sermon, a worship background, or a church bulletin cover. At Sharefaith, it’s what we do all the time, and something we do very well. Much of the design savvy behind our PowerPoint sermons are from Josh Feit, a professional graphic designer. Josh is first and foremost a Christian, and secondly is a designer. Each of the PowerPoint sermon templates he designs are packed with meaning. We had a conversation with Josh to pick his brain about church PowerPoint sermons, and extract some tips for you as a pastor, media director, or church volunteer. I think you’ll find that his advice is spot-on, powerful, relevant, and game-changing. Read and learn.
1. Where do you get your inspiration or ideas for new design?
Inspiration is an overrated commodity, and professional designers rarely have the luxury of waiting around for an inspired idea. With deadline-driven work, it is essential to hit the ground running. As such, I have become a collector of ideas. I am constantly filing away words and images for later reference, the result of which is an invaluable resource. The bible tells us there is nothing new under the sun, and having spun around that glowing ball for nearly a decade as a designer, I wholeheartedly agree.
Rarely if ever will a designer manage to create something truly new. A more attainable goal is to approach design tasks by compiling existing ideas into a fresh solution, pulling bits and pieces from a collected history — a ‘life-assemblage’ of sorts. If an artist’s bank of resources and ideas is vast enough, the designs that result will not only be beautiful, but will also have an element of autobiography.
2. How long does it take you to do a design?
On rare occasions, projects jump effortlessly from my brain onto the screen. On typical days, my work catches in the thick goo of life’s circumstances. There is no way around that. The identical design prompt executed on two different days may yield two distinct time budgets. As the years have accrued, I have learned how to rely on a base of design principles and standard workflows so I can accomplish the goals of my task list even when ideas refuse to flow.
3. What are your favorite tools or Photoshop tricks?
Photoshop, and the entire Adobe suite for that matter, is chock-full of powerful design tools, and the results can be overwhelming to a new artist. The most elegant design solutions are often the simplest, and as such I am careful not to overuse the tools available in the software.
I have seen designers throw every bevel, texture, shadow, and filter onto a project, and the result is never good. Photoshop tools are best used as implements for bringing an image of the mind into existence. A sculptor would not use a chisel, a hammer, and a punch if her project only needed the touch of a file. If a designer envisions a clear direction for a project before roughing around in the software, the result will always be superior. The software tools are simply a means to coax that image in your head and/or sketchbook onto the screen.
If I only had access to Photoshop’s selection tools, masking capabilities, layer blending modes, and brushes, I could accomplish a broad array of design work. In addition, developing a broad library of stock textures and abstracts has also greatly reduced the time I spend creating similar images in the software.
4. Give us a brief overview of how a design works–from the minute it percolates in your mind to the time that it bursts forth in glorious light.
The mind of an artist should function like a funnel, with eyes wide open and ears attuned. I do not wait for a design prompt before beginning the creative process. At any time, I have around two dozen seeds of ideas going (in my head, in a sketchbook, and on my hard drive). When a project brief presents itself, I often have a few resources from which I can pull. Instead of staring at a blank canvas, I often start with a few building blocks I have already developed and go from there.
Every designer will have slow days. Instead of poking around the web and updating your Facebook account, spend that time stocking your quiver of ‘design seeds.’ If you never use them, your mind will still benefit from the creative exercise, but it is a safe bet that you will use most of this work at some point in the future.
5. Does good design take a lot of training? schooling? practice? frustration? strong black coffee?
Much can be gained from a formal education in art and graphic design, but good designers are not always trained, and trained designers are not always good. Aesthetic and compositional sensibilities are a gift from God. Like all gifts, these intuitions must be honed and invested through lifelong education and practice.
An artist never arrives at a set of knowledge or skills, but instead commits to a lifelong pursuit. When we look back at our work from two years ago, we should generally dislike what we see. Our style and sensibilities should constantly be evolving, and our portfolios should show a significant progression.
It is also important to identify what is working and what is not working in a project. Failure has inspired some of my greatest successes. I am never afraid to trash a file that is not working and restart with a clean artboard. The second (or third, or fourth) try is usually significantly stronger than the previous swing.
Caffeinated beverages alone will not make an artist out of a salesperson, but they can’t hurt the process either. I have to admit that a tall mug of black tea does inject a substantial amount of energy into my workday tasks.
6. What is one design tip (or several!) that you think a church media person should know.
Typography is central to good design. The point of design is communication, and the main message is almost always expressed through the type.
Anyone can select from a list of fonts, but that is not typography. Leading matters. Kerning matters. Baseline alignment matters. Glyph selection matters. In my opinion, typography often has the ability to lend more vibrance to a project than any other element on the artboard.
Staying away from ‘candy fonts’ (those over-designed, cutesy font faces with curls, squiggles, and the like) is an important first step in cleaning up the look of your church’s media. Select two or three fonts for church-wide communications, and stick to them in your brochures, projection screens, newsletters, flyers, posters, and web ads.
7. What’s one of the worst things that someone can do with designing, say a PowerPoint for a sermon.
New designers want to show their chops, and often cram too much into a single design. Lead with a strong concept (write it down if it helps), and make sure every design choice supports that direction. Remember that design is communication. Simplicity of design often equals clear communication.
8. What do you feel is some of your best work?
Every piece I create is my best work. By this, I mean that I give my full energy and attention to each piece I create regardless of the size of the project. There are certain designs that I end up liking more than others, but I do not release any work unless I feel comfortable putting my company’s name on it. A sample of my work as a designer and as an art director may be found at churchgraphics.org/portfolio.
Josh Feit is an experienced graphic designer who devotes the majority of his time and attention to church graphic design.